Ale is a type of beer brewed from malted barley using a warm fermentation with a strain of brewers' yeast. The yeast will ferment the beer quickly, giving it a sweet, full bodied and fruity taste. Most ales contain hops, which help preserve the beer and impart a bitter herbal flavour that balances the sweetness of the malt.
The term "ale" was initially used to describe a drink brewed without hops, unlike "beer", although it eventually came to mean a bitter-tasting barley beverage fermented at room temperature. Ale typically has bittering agent to balance the sweetness of the malt and to act as a preservative. Ale was originally bittered with gruit, a mixture of herbs (sometimes spices) which was boiled in the wort prior to fermentation. Later, hops replaced the gruit blend in common usage as the sole bittering agent.
Ale, along with bread, was an important source of nutrition in the medieval world, particularly Small beer, also known as table beer or mild beer, which was highly nutritious, contained just enough alcohol to act as a preservative, and provided hydration without intoxicating effects. Small beer would have been consumed daily by almost everyone in the medieval world, with higher-alcohol ales served for recreational purposes.
A darker barley malt is used to produce brown ales. They tend to be lightly hopped, and fairly mildly flavoured, often with a nutty taste. In the south of England they are dark brown, around 3-3.5% alcohol and quite sweet; in the north they are red-brown, 4.5-5% and drier. English brown ales first appeared in the early 1900s, with Manns Brown Ale and Newcastle Brown Ale as the best-known examples. The style became popular with homebrewers in North America in the early 1980s; Pete's Wicked Ale is an example, similar to the English original but substantially hoppier. Belgian oud bruin is a sour brown ale.
Pale ale was a term used for beers made from malt dried with coke. Coke had been first used for roasting malt in 1642, but it wasn't until around 1703 that the term pale ale was first used.
While the full range of ales is produced in Scotland, the term "Scotch Ale" is used internationally to denote a malty, strong dark ale. The malt may be slightly caramelised to impart toffee notes.
Mild ale originally meant unaged ale, the opposite of old ale. It can be any strength or colour, although most are dark brown and low in strength, typically between 3-3.5%. An example of a lighter coloured mild is Banks's Mild.
Burton Ale was a strong, dark, somewhat sweet ale brewed to good strength and vatted at the brewery for a year or more. Sometimes used as a 'stock ale' for blending into younger beers, these comparatively strong ales were also enjoyed on their own.
In England, old ale was strong beer traditionally kept for about a year, gaining sharp, acetic flavours as it did so. The term is now applied to medium-strong dark beers, some of which are treated to resemble the traditional old ales. In Australia, the term is used even less discriminately, and is a general name for any dark beer.
Belgium produces a wide variety of specialty ales that elude easy classification. Virtually all Trappist beers and Abbey beers are high in alcoholic content but light in body due to the addition of large amounts of sucrose, which provides an alcohol boost with an essentially neutral flavour.
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Ale , en.wikipedia.org
English Brown Ale , beeradvocate.com
Category 8 — English Pale Ale , www.bjcp.org